No persons to hear it


The poem is patting down the trees
to make sure they’re real

is bumping in darkness
like the otter exhibit at 3 am. 

It is a maid sifting
thru the cold ash of an enlightenment.

The poem puts its hand on the neck
of the janitor and walks her

to the wrong floor, the fortieth floor,
and there is fear,

wrongdoing all around,
and talcum in the rug. 

Not friends but guests it wants. Not space but time. 

It canvasses sealed houses,
it hides from darkness in barns.

In the light or dark of knowledge
which like a drained reservoir

discloses and conceals,
the poem hops stump to stump

and counts the inches.
Its body sits in its soul like

a lentil in an arena
and there is laughter in the stands.

The poem is a crow in centurion’s armor—
it guards the emperor

in greaves of tin,
in a helmet of watermelon

so sweet and good that passersby lean in

and take it, and bite it to the rind.

Timmy Straw is a writer, musician and translator (Russian) and a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Their poems appear in the Chicago Review, Poem-a-Day, Second Factory, The Volta and elsewhere, and their first book is forthcoming from Fonograf Editions.